In 1969, someone once threw a live chicken onstage at an Alice Cooper show in Toronto. Believing it could fly, he threw it into the air, where it flapped weakly before landing in the crowd. It was promptly dismembered. In other words, Cooper is arguably the originator of onstage outrageousness.
During his early-’70s heyday, the shock-rock icon dressed like a ghoul, with a gaunt face and mascara-streaked eyes, performing cartoonishly violent stunts while performing onstage. His brand of rock was about breaking taboos and being decadent. He frequently, for example, took a hatchet to female mannequins and spit into the audience, often ending his performances inside a guillotine.
“It was quite obvious that rock was full of idols and heroes, but there were no villains,” he recently told MusicRadar. “I couldn’t find a villain in the bunch. I thought, ‘If nobody wants to play Captain Hook, I do!'”
The success of Cooper’s act led to several reincarnations.
“When Marilyn Manson came out, I said, ‘OK, let me see, a guy with makeup on with a girl’s name who does theatrics — I wish I had thought of that!'” Cooper joked. “Marilyn and I are good friends now; we’ve toured together. If you look at his show, it is nothing like my show. He has his own style of grotesque. Rob Zombie is probably closer to Alice Cooper because it is more of an extravaganza.”
Cooper then used an interesting word when describing his contemporary rivals… that word being, “derivative”.
“Rob Zombie does a really good show, Marilyn Manson does a great show,” he said. “Gwar and Rammstein, it’s all derivative of what we started doing, but the Alice show is still different. You focus on Alice as the main character, so we don’t use pyro and things like that. I want the audience to get sucked in by the character because everything happens either to him or because of him.”
He also mentioned that a surprising group of artists is currently carrying the torch for his old theatrics.
“I think the girls at this point have taken over the shows,” he said. “You go look at Shakira, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga — they’re doing Alice Cooper. That’s what we were doing in the late ’60s and early ’70s through to now.”